UNC: PM afraid to address Jones report on children’s homes

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. File photo/Sureash Cholai

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar says the Prime Minister is reluctant to focus on the 2021 Judith Jones report on children’s homes because any investigation may implicate members of the PNM.

Instead, she said, Dr Rowley was focussing on the 25-year-old Sabga Report on the same matter, claiming the report a secret and was buried. The Sabga Report had serious allegations of abuse, similar to the Jones Report.

However she said the Children’s Authority Bill, the Children (Amendment) Bill, the Adoption of Children Bill, the Miscellaneous Provisions (Children) Bill, and the Children’s Community Residences, Foster Homes and Nurseries Bill were all introduced in 1999 as a direct result of the report.

Persad-Bissessar also noted several references on the Hansard that made reference to the Sabga Report so it could not have been a secret.

For example, then Minister Manohar Ramsaran has stated on June 2, 2006 that the report was laid in Parliament; and on November 19, 2002 it was referenced by Independent Senator Ramesh Deosaran and then Legal Affairs Camille Robinson-Regis.

“Its recommendations have been referenced numerous times in relation to legislation enacted by the Panday Government to improve the care of children in state facilities, including by Camille Robinson-Regis.”

In the Hansard in November 2002, Robinson-Regis said, “In fact, that particular Sabga Report was used by the then Ministry of Social Development to examine all the issues as they related to the care of children. The issues that were raised in that report were very revealing in circumstances where our society had depended on a number of foster homes to ensure care for our young children and for children who had suffered abandonment by their families. That report did, in fact, inform quite a number of the policies that were developed during that period, especially as they related to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Ramsaran had also publicly stated that he gave a copy of the report to then commissioner or police Hilton Guy and discussed it with him.

However, in a recent interview with one newspaper, Ramsaran said the report was not laid in Parliament and the report was not taken to the police because there was no evidence. Instead, he said, the report was sent back to the ministry for further investigation.

Persad-Bissessar called on the police to investigate all claims including that of a paedophile ring in the system.